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Eternity

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV).   We were made for eternity.    Created in the image of God, our spiritual grandparents, Adam and Eve, were designed for life eternal.  They were never meant to die, but to live forever in the garden, their God-ordained Paradise.  We know how their story ends.  Tempted by a seductive serpent, the couple took a bite of forbidden fruit, and with it they tasted death for the very first time.    But, God had a plan.  Through the death of Jesus, God’s only Son, the Serpent and sin would be crushed.  Paradise would not only be reimagined, but it would be realized by everyone accepting of the promise.   Solomon shared that, “…He (God) has also set eternity in the human heart…” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV).  There is a part of each of us that is meant to live forever.  Jesus died to make this a reality.  Let’s live it!      
 

Trading Post

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV).   Trading is part of the human experience.  From an early age, we learn the art of the deal.  Trades occur daily across elementary school lunch tables where bags of potato chips are exchanged for chocolate chip cookies.  Playgrounds become swap meets with the currency of toys and baseball cards.  As adults, we trade-in cars, and we trade-out furniture.  Then, of course, there’s the stock market and day trading.    The Apostle Paul speaks of a trade that took place some two-thousand years ago at the trading post of the cross, where Jesus endured the consequences of our sin so that we could receive the undeserved reward of salvation.  Theologians throughout history have referred to this pivotal event as “The Great Exchange”.    Just imagine, Jesus, the personification of holiness and perfection, becoming sin incarnate on the cross.  Within his flesh, Jesus possessed the sins of the world and literally carried them all to the grave. Because of this single act, each of us is declared righteous and holy regardless of the wrongs we have done.  Our sin has been washed in the blood of Christ, buried in a borrowed tomb, and we are given the prize of Heaven.   There will always be trades that are made.  None, however, will match the one Jesus made for mankind at the cross.  Through this exchange, we are declared forgiven and free. 
 

Fish and Sheep

“The third time (Jesus) said to Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’   Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep’ ” (John 21:17, NIV).   When Peter and the other disciples arrive on shore, Peter soaking wet from his swim and the other men sitting in the relative comfort of their fishing boat, Jesus already has breakfast warming over a fire.  As the heat of the dancing flames warms Peter’s skin and the smell of fresh fish and bread fills the air, Peter can’t help but think back to several years ago, to his calling as a follower of Jesus.  That instance had also involved a huge and miraculous catch of fish.  But that was well before Peter’s recent denial of Jesus.  Now, Peter’s sin is at the forefront of his mind.  As he pulls the fish-filled net onto shore, Peter hopes that he can still be of use to Jesus, that he can once again “ ‘…fish for people’ ” (Luke 5:10, NIV) as Jesus had called him to do.   I imagine there is some level of uncomfortableness on the part of Peter as he shares the meal with Jesus and the other disciples.  Peter knows all-to-well that he has hurt Jesus and wonders if their relationship, their friendship, will ever be as it once was.  The laughter of the group of men around the fire calms Peter’s anxiety to some extent, but it doesn’t change the fact or the cruel consequences of his sin.    But then, following their meal, there’s a moment in time, an exchange between Peter and Jesus, where Peter’s doubts are diminished and his hope is restored.  Jesus asks Peter a series of questions, three times in fact, the same number of times that Peter had denied knowing Jesus, “…do you love me?” (John 21:15-17, NIV).   Each time, Peter affirmatively responds with an answer of “yes” and each time Jesus tells Peter some variation of the phrase, “…feed my sheep…” (John 21:15-17, NIV).  Jesus is not finished with Peter, even though Peter has given up on himself.  Jesus has forgiven Peter, despite his denial, and now Peter needs to forgive himself.  Peter, who had been called to fish for people is now being called to feed Jesus’ sheep, his lambs, a calling that will ultimately cause Peter to lose his life.  But it will all be worth it.  Peter will lead and fish and feed Jesus’ people the remainder of his life, and his confession of faith will outlive his denial in doubt.      
 

Peter Makes a Splash

“Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.  He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’   ‘No,’ they answered.   He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.   Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’  As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, ‘It is the Lord,’ he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water” (John 21:4-7, NIV).   This event marks the second occasion in which Jesus has provided the disciples with a miraculous catch of fish.  The first was when a younger Simon Peter was called by Jesus into ministry.  Much has happened in Peter’s life since that occasion three years ago, including his recent denial of Jesus, his Lord and his friend.   This second catch of fish is so important, especially for Peter.  The once dead, now risen Jesus is showing that, just as Peter had been called into the ministry, he is now being reinstated to serve.  And where before Peter had been called to follow, now he is being called to lead.  Jesus will soon ascend into Heaven, leaving Peter and the other disciples to carry-on all that Jesus has taught.   (Continue reading at www.chuckkralikauthor.com)
 

The Doubting Disciple

“…But (Thomas) said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe’ ” (John 20:25, NIV).   Thomas was never one to receive top billing as one of Jesus’ disciples.  His name is mentioned only a few times in the New Testament, usually in a who’s who list of the twelve.  Thomas isn’t even present when the resurrected Jesus first appears to the other disciples as they hide behind locked doors.  No, Thomas’ claim to fame, rather his claim to infamy, is found in his disbelief concerning Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.   To Thomas, the news that Jesus was alive was just too good to be true and too difficult to believe.  And so, Doubting Thomas, as he would come to be known, needed proof that Jesus had accomplished what he said he would do - live, then die, then rise again.  For Thomas to believe, he had to literally see the scars where the nails had been driven into Jesus’ hands and feet.  He had to physically place his hand in Jesus’ side where a Roman soldier’s spear had penetrated Jesus’ body.   (Continue reading at www.chuckkralikauthor.com)  
 

A Tomb in the Garden

“At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid” (John 19:41, NIV).   Death had made its return to a garden.  Perhaps, it was a fitting scene, as a garden was the place where this entire spiritual dilemma had begun.  Thousands of years before Jesus occupied Earth, Adam and Eve lived in a garden.  The Garden of Eden was Paradise, but its perfection didn’t last long.  A seductive serpent and an appetite for forbidden fruit led to Adam and Eve’s banishment from the garden.  Paradise, literally and figuratively, was lost.   (Continue reading at www.chuckkralikauthor.com)
 

Walk Faithfully

“They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’ ” (Luke 24:32, NIV).   Imagine walking with God.  What would it be like strolling alongside the God who created you, the One who knows you most deeply, the God who is for and not against you?  Perhaps it would be intimidating to recognize that God knows your every thought.  Or maybe it would be comforting to realize that God cares about your every concern and desire, that he is genuinely interested in you and what you have to say.    In Genesis we read that Enoch and Noah, each “…walked faithfully with God…” (Genesis 5:22, 24; 6:9, NIV).  The idea conveyed here is that these men of faith enjoyed an intimate and meaningful relationship with God, that their faith walk was in step with their Creator.   Following his resurrection on the first Easter morning, Jesus walked with two other men as they trekked toward the town of Emmaus.     (Continue reading at www.chuckkralikauthor.com)
 

Nonsense

“…they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense” (Luke 24:11, NIV).   When Mary Magdalene and the other women shared what they had witnessed on the first Easter morning, the disciples must have thought the women were out of their minds.  A couple of Scripture-quoting angels, a huge boulder mysteriously set aside, a grave with no body - it was all too much to make sense of.  Their leader and friend, Jesus, had been put to death on Friday.  There was no doubt about that.  But now, on this Sunday morning, these women were claiming that he had risen.  How preposterous!   (Continue reading at www.chuckkralikauthor.com)         

Chuck Kralik

Chuck Kralik

 

Friday

It’s Friday afternoon.  Jesus’ body hangs limply upon a Roman cross which stands center-stage in a gruesome scene.  Jesus has been beaten and scourged and spat upon.  His nail-punctured wrists and feet still hold him securely to the cruel device of the cross.  A crown of thorns impales his bloodied brow, and a just-for-good-measure side-piercing spear sits idly by.  Things are quiet now, with the exception of the thunder that rumbles in the distance and the sobs of those who have stuck around.  As an angry sky spits upon the scene, the small drops of rainfall mix with the tears of on-lookers.  The themes for today are darkness and despair, defined by the crucifixion of an innocent man.  Make no mistake.  Jesus is dead.   (Continue reading at www.chuckkralikauthor.com)  

Chuck Kralik

Chuck Kralik

 

Heaven - Part 2 of 2

“ ‘My Father’s house has many rooms;  if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am’ ” (John 14:2-3, NIV).   These are some of the words Jesus used to describe Heaven.  Referring to his “Father’s house”, one with “many rooms”, Heaven is the place Jesus himself went ahead of us to prepare.   Likely, as Jesus spoke about Heaven, he was thinking about the Jewish practice of marriage.  According to custom, the newly married husband and wife would move into the family home.  This required the addition of a room to accommodate the couple.  Depending upon the size of the family, several rooms would be added to the house over the years.    (Continue reading at www.chuckkralikauthor.com)  

Chuck Kralik

Chuck Kralik

 

Heaven - Part 1 of 2

“…I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look!  God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.  They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’ ” (Revelation 21:3-4, NIV).   The Bible Book of Revelation can be difficult to understand.  Its writer, John shares visions and images that are often foreign to the reader and at times downright scary – seals and scrolls and trumpets, a dragon and a beast, the abyss and the apocalypse, just to name a few.  Still, in Revelation we find beautiful images of Heaven.  And, whether taken literally or figuratively as metaphors of truth, these visions can provide comfort and peace to troubled and hurting souls.   That we would be the people of God and that the Deity would be our God makes me think back to stories from the Old Testament.  Time and again, God made covenant promises with his chosen Israelite people.  God looked over them.  He protected them from harm.  He made his presence known among them.  Yet, time and again, God’s people failed to live up to their side of the deal.  They rebelled.  They sought after false gods.  They sinned.    In the New Testament, God chose an even grander strategy and actually became one of us.  He came in the flesh, in bodily and infant form, as Jesus, who lived among us and died for us.  Still, we struggle with temptation and sin, with unbelief and lackluster faith.  Eventually, our flesh simply fails.   But in Heaven, all is made new and right.  There is no death, no crying or mourning, no disease, no sin.  And God dwells with his people once again.  Really, I think that’s the best description of Heaven, the place where God is with his people.  In the meantime, we live and die, knowing that Heaven awaits us.

Chuck Kralik

Chuck Kralik

 

Fearless

“In God, whose word I praise— in God I trust and am not afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalm 56:4, NIV).   I’m amazed when I hear of Christians who, for at least a moment in time, seem to be fearless.  The Bible is full of such heroes, individuals whose faith was stronger than their fear.  Daniel stood toe to toe with lions.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego kept their cool, and their faith, even while inside a fiery furnace.  A stammering Moses found his voice as he faced Pharaoh.  And the boy David took down one giant of a man.   Then, there are the Christian martyrs who made the ultimate sacrifice for their faith.  The author of Hebrews speaks of those who “…were put to death by stoning… sawed in two.. (and) killed by the sword…” (Hebrews 11:37, NIV).  Each of these individuals exchanged the worldly comforts of this life for an eternal reward in Heaven.   Even today, there are Christians who put their lives on the line for their beliefs.  Some worship in secret places, because the Word they share is forbidden in public.  Missionaries are called to remote regions with no guarantee that they or their message will be received kindly.  All over the world, preachers preach and teachers teach the good news Gospel message of what Jesus has done.   Christians throughout the ages have had the courage to stand-up for their faith.  May God make each of us fearless as well.                 

Chuck Kralik

Chuck Kralik

 

God Cried

“Jesus wept” (John 11:35, NIV).   I used to think as a kid that real men didn’t cry.  But then I saw my Dad, tears falling from his eyes, mourning the loss of a friend, and I knew that it was okay to show emotion.   Years later, I watched a sports icon, basketball coach Jim Valvano, losing not a game, but a fight against cancer.  In a speech at the 1993 ESPY sports awards, Valvano said, “To me there are three things everyone should do every day. Number one is laugh. Number two is think… Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that's a heck of a day.”     (Continue reading at www.chuckkralikauthor.com)  

Chuck Kralik

Chuck Kralik

 

Known

“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11, NIV).   Much of the New Testament of the Bible is written either about or by the Apostle Paul.  Formerly known as Saul of Tarsus, Paul received a name change following his encounter with the risen Jesus on a road to the city of Damascus.  Paul’s life as one who persecuted the fledgling Christian Church took a complete one-hundred-and-eighty degree turn as he placed his faith in Jesus as the one who would save him.   Under Paul’s leadership and laser-like focus on ministry, the Church exploded in number.  Paul preached and taught the Word of God with Spirit-filled passion and conviction.  He made several missionary journeys during his time as an apostle and penned at least thirteen letters to individuals and churches.  These letters, also known as epistles, appear in our Bible’s New Testament.  Even today, Paul’s influence radically exceeds his limited lifespan and martyred death.   (Continue reading at www.chuckkralikauthor.com)    

Chuck Kralik

Chuck Kralik

 

Crowded Out

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2, NIV).   Lately I’ve been praying a simple prayer that goes something like this: “Lord, please fill me with your __________ and crowd out my __________.”  Depending on the day, or even the time of day, those two blanks can reveal different things.  The first blank is always something positive and the second something negative.  “Lord, please fill me with your Spirit and crowd out my fear.”  “Lord, please fill me with your joy and crowd out my anxiety.”  “Lord, please fill me with your peace and crowd out my anger.”  Regardless of what I pray, I know that God hears me and accepts my prayer invitation.   (Continue reading at http://www.chuckkralikauthor.com)      

Chuck Kralik

Chuck Kralik

 

Thorns and Nails

“…‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’…” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV).   Pastor George Matheson once prayed, “My God… I have thanked you a thousand times for roses, but not once for my thorn.”  Matheson’s point was that sometimes God allows us to suffer the prickly and painful things in life.  Still, God can use these very things to bring us closer to and make us more reliant on him.  God has a way of twisting the tragic into the triumphant.  This, I think, is why God doesn’t remove every thorn or calm every storm of life.   The Apostle Paul speaks of a thorn in his flesh.  While we aren’t certain what Paul’s particular thorn was, we do know that it did what thorns do.  It irritated him.  It nagged him.  It hurt him in some way.  And Paul wanted it gone.     (Continue reading at www.chuckkralikauthor.com)    

Chuck Kralik

Chuck Kralik

 

Repentance

“If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you” (Psalm 139:8-12, NIV).   “Repentance” is such a good word to describe Lent, the season leading up to Easter.  For some it might sound a little too churchy or conjure up images of a robed, bearded guy on a street corner holding up a sign and yelling, “The end is near!”  The meaning of “repentance” is simply this: a turning away from sin and a turning toward God.  That’s a pretty easy explanation and a reasonable expectation on the part of God.  Right?   (Continue reading at www.chuckkralikauthor.com)

Chuck Kralik

Chuck Kralik

 

Worship

“For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed” (Revelation 15:4, NIV).   I frequently pray for opportunities to worship God.  I know that this phrase may seem a little peculiar as God is always available to receive our worship.  The issue for me is that I don’t always make myself available to bring my worship to God.    I want to worship my Savior with all that I am, but I am distracted by so many things.  A knock at my office door interrupts the prayer I needed to pray or the Bible passage I meant to read.  During Sunday service, I find myself more concerned about the impressions of those around me than the desires of the One to whom I am attempting to direct my praise.  Then there are the nagging enemies of indifference, laziness, complacency, and pride that so often derail my best attempts to worship the One who created me.  The seemingly simple act of worshipping God often proves difficult for me.   (Continue reading at www.chuckkralikauthor.wordpress.com)       

Chuck Kralik

Chuck Kralik

 

Salvation

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 John 5:13, NIV).   Can I really be sure?  That is a question I’ve heard, even asked, many times, concerning salvation.  Maybe you are asking it right now.  If you are, then read on, because I’ve got some really great news for you!   The answer to this age-old theological question is a definitive “yes”.  You see, our salvation is not based upon anything that we do, but rather on the all-sufficient sacrifice that Jesus made on a cross some 2,000 years ago.  God’s gracious gift of eternal life is available to all people and made ours through faith.  The Apostle Paul puts it this way, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8, NIV).  “By grace, through faith!”  “A gift!”  That is really great news!   (Continue reading at www.chuckkralikauthor.wordpress.com)    

Chuck Kralik

Chuck Kralik

 

East From West

“For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:11-12, NIV).   Let me begin by addressing the word “fear” in this passage.  Are we really meant to fear God?  Part of this answer, I think, lies in how we understand the word “fear”.  God is perfectly holy and just, and, because of our sin, we can never, on our own, live up to the perfect standard he sets.  Scripture says that even our most “…righteous acts are like filthy rags…” (Isaiah 64:6, NIV).    In Old Testament times, people “feared” God to such an extent that they refused to even speak his name.  This is, however, the same God who knows each of us by our name.  And what we could not do to earn favor with God, he sent his Son Jesus to earn for us.    By Jesus’ death on the cross, we are forgiven.  We are declared righteous, made right, before our Heavenly Father.  As followers of Jesus, we do not need to fear God because of what Jesus has done for us through his death at Calvary.    (Continue reading at www.chuckkralikauthor.wordpress.com)        

Chuck Kralik

Chuck Kralik

 

Hidden

“I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.  I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:10-11, NIV).   As I think about this Psalm, I can’t help but recall my past.  There was a time in my life when the commands of God terrified me.  I viewed God’s law as a complicated list of dos and don’ts, should haves and could haves.  I overlooked the spirit of God’s law (its actual purpose) while binding myself to the letter of the law, of which I attempted to dot every “i” and cross every “t”.  I was like the Pharisees of the Bible, adhering to every detailed point.  And while I’d like to say that I succeeded at my strict obedience and piety, mostly I just felt more and more lost, an enemy of a God who demanded a perfection of which I was simply incapable of attaining.   (Continue reading at www.chuckkralikauthor.wordpress.com)     

Chuck Kralik

Chuck Kralik

 

Knit Together

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” (Psalm 139:13-14, NIV).   I can’t say that I’ve ever knit anything, but I can appreciate the artistry and handiwork of the person who has.  Knitting requires a great deal of physical dexterity and the use of fine motor skills.  It is an intentional act, one that involves persistence and care.  Knitting is intimate in nature.  It takes time, creativity, and unparalleled patience.  This is how King David chose to describe the work of God in creating every human being.   Think about it for a moment.  The God who speckled the nighttime sky with shining stars and spinning planets, created the dimpled cheeks and freckled faces of human beings.  The same God who painted rainbows and sunsets, who colored the wings of butterflies, chose the pigmentation of our skin.  The very God who spoke and creation was complete is the God who breathed life into our still bodies.     (Continue reading at www.chuckkralikauthor.wordpress.com)  

Chuck Kralik

Chuck Kralik

 

Expectancy

“In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5:3, NIV).   This passage of Scripture tells me so much about God.   The simple fact that God “…hears my voice…” (Psalm 5:3, NIV) astonishes me.  There are so many things for God to give his attention to: the sounds of his creation, the rushing waters, the cries of a newborn baby, the thunder on a stormy spring day.  Each of these demands that God listens to them.  And God does hear each of these.  But he also hears me.   (Continue reading at www.chuckkralikauthor.wordpress.com)     

Chuck Kralik

Chuck Kralik

 

Christ Crucified

“…I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2, NIV).   The foundational doctrine espoused by the Apostle Paul is “Christ crucified”.  This is simply the idea that the most impactful moment in Jesus’ life occurred as he breathed his final breaths hanging from a Roman cross, where he secured our forgiveness of sins and freedom from their eternal consequences.  Now, one might argue that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead served as Jesus’ crowning achievement, and certainly, the resurrection assures us that Jesus’ sacrifice was complete.  But remember.  The glory of Easter doesn’t occur without the gory scene of the cross.         (Continue reading at www.chuckkralikauthor.wordpress.com)    

Chuck Kralik

Chuck Kralik

 

Into Your Hands

“Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’  When he had said this, he breathed his last” (Luke 23:46, NIV).   It was Friday and Jesus was dead.  Some who knew him best were witnesses to the final faint breaths of their friend.  They were heartbroken and confused and left to ask, “What would happen now that Jesus was gone?”    Mary Magdalene was there.  Jesus had saved her from a spiritual bout with seven demons, dark forces that tormented her mind, body, and soul.  She had had other “demons” as well, many of them of her own making.  But Jesus had rescued her.  He had befriended her.  And she had followed Jesus all the way to the cross.  But now it was over.  Jesus’ body hang motionless just feet from where she stood.  Her tears mixed with the rain that had begun to fall.  With this brutal crucifixion, hope for her was gone.  Her future, once so bright, was now darkened, just like the skies above.  Now, if her “demons” returned, there would be no rescue.   (Continue reading at www.chuckkralikauthor.wordpress.com)  
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